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Polk County, FL

Project: Lake Hancock Land Use and Management Plan, Polk County, FL
Client: Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
Principal Ecologist: Dr. Jay Exum led the development of a Land Use and Management Plan that encompassed overall objectives for conservation and restoration.

Frequently our projects are a part of a larger-scale ecological context with a complex array of ecological issues. And more often than not, with these complexities come a variety of opinions on how to implement management actions in a cost-effective manner. Engaging impassioned stakeholders on complicated projects affecting the natural environment is our specialty. We are inspired to lead and develop resource management plans that define objectives for ecological restoration and management; identify appropriate public use; and provide recreational opportunities that encourage people to enthusiastically engage with the natural environment.

Assignment:

Prepare a land use and management plan for ecological restoration and resource-based recreation on more than 5000 acres of highly altered SWFWMD-owned lands around Lake Hancock in Polk County, Florida.

Challenges:

  • Contentious project with numerous potential litigants engaged in the process and awaiting the final plan
  • Complex land use history involving extensive degradation of the natural environment
  • The need to integrate with a large-scale water quality improvement project involving thousands of acres in the watershed

Management Actions Implemented:

  • Implementation of a phased wetland restoration plan
  • Exotic species control
  • Ecological burning and wildfire control
  • Ecological monitoring
  • Buffer zones for bald eagle nests

Compatible recreation components included:

  • A multi-use trail around the eastern edge of Lake Hancock
  • Primitive camping
  • Observation boardwalks and interpretive signage
  • A blue way with sites for fishing and waterfowl hunting
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